SIF(Phase 1): Initial Experience using Assistance(high rail)

Phase 1(Initial Experience & Feel): Using assistance(high rail fence).

“Curious? What does SIF feel like”

Find a rail, fence, wall,…etc. that is taller than your head. Something high to grab when you start falling. You are standing with full body weight on two pedals. If you fall/step off one pedal = disaster. Twisted ankles, shin bruises and lacerations from pedal spikes.

Carefully climb onto unicycle with pedal down at 6/12 position. Then slowly rotate to to 3/9 position and relax. How’s that? Did it shoot out? Are you on the ground, yet?

Initial Experience & Feel:
1. WTF?
2. The unicycle has mind of it’s own. Why can’t it stand still?
3. My saddle has become a wild/twisty animal that wants to break my arm off?
4. As soon as I start pedaling, I become a human pretzel. Everything collapses?
5. Help my muscles are beginning to cramp.

Do’s and Don’ts:

  1. Always mount the “down pedal” on the unicycle side away from the wall. Never the other side(next wall) = you will get wedged into wall.

  2. Grip the saddle “dead center” above the seat post. It will be fighting you, but the center transmits the least amount of torque.

  3. Get into the 3/9 pedal position just hold everything tight. Then start to make small movements and experience and get familiar. Feel how your body can lean frwd/back, side/side as you stand on the pedals. Hold saddle tight and locked into the body. Don’t let it buck you off.

  4. Now, apply a small amount of rotation in both direction. Like doing a “micro idle”. The unicycle not only rocks fwd/back, but it can also roll fwd/back a small amount. When you rotate the pedal with even tension, the unicycle stays straight. Everything is aligned and controlled just by your feet.

  5. The feeling of your total body weight across 2 pedals is weird, but coordination will soon kick in. Coordination = less energy/strength required.

This is what I did for about year or two. I was not serious about learning SIF. From watching unicycle expert videos, it looked like you can either do it or you can’t. I gave it a quick try, once. Nope. I can’t.
So, I would just do this for exercise. Find a nice long 20-50 ft long rail, and do it a few times. You will get a good leg and arm pump in a confined space. No need to find a trail or park.

One day the thought of “maybe I can do SIF” popped into my head. Why not? All this rail exercise has definitely built strength, coordination and some control. Let’s do it.

Next phase?
Let’s get serious and figure out this SIF thing.

Coming soon:
Phase 2(Getting Better): Using less assistance(low rail/wall/fence)


A couple questions: Do you change your seat height while practicing SIF, or do you recommend a certain seat height for SIF? Also, is there a relationship between the starting “down pedal” (left or right) and which hand (right or left) you grab the seat with? And, grabbing the seat “dead center”…Is your hand position on the side of the saddle or coming straight down onto it from above?

My own acquisition of SIF skills was more of a slow transition, via baby steps, from “normal” seat-in riding to full SIF. I like how your method allows the uninitiated rider to jump right into it.

Great point(saddle grab & height) and only somebody “experienced doing SIF” thinks about those things. Initially, I didn’t think about that at all. However, I did some quick initial research. Yielded absolutely nothing. But I got this. Youtube video telling us to “…just grab the end of the saddle”. Great for a pro, but for a raw SIF beginner, that’s a wrist breaker.

For any beginner it’s just the new experience of this awkward SIF and how much energy is expended to avoid falling. Incredible muscle power demand on the legs and arm to hold them. I didn’t think about “dominant hand” yet. Since, it was “just a workout” I made sure to be ambidextrous and worked both sides. Also, “being lazy” I didn’t want to always stop and adjust the seat height.

However, those variable are absolutely critical when I got seriously focused on SIF.
Phase 2: (still using assistance…but holding onto something “lower”)
Where I go into it deep. Here’s some quick comments:

-seat height(relative to rider height) can greatly affect: control, comfort, and “transitioning” ability
-saddle in terms of: where to grip? position relative to body? should I guide it? also affect SIF ability
-also saddle grab hand(right) & pedal start position(right pedal down)? what I consistently did and worked

As I’ve learned from using hand assistance in just basic beginner unicycle rider.
Whether you grab “high” or “low” makes a big distance. That’s why I created a separate chapter on this. In fact, that’s the reason I was able advance and ultimately learn how to SIF. No low rail = no SIF for me.

So, I will definitely answer your questions and more.
Especially, how those factors(saddle grabbing location and seat height) changed during my progress, and even after I conquered and advanced in SIF.


BTW…if you are just a raw beginner “toying” with SIF…but hate reading through all my crap. Here’s my short version. “Phase 1” = “just do it”. Enjoy

Just to close the loop on your questions, which I was going to answer on another page/topic…but it might be more efficient to do it here. In case, more than one person is interested and following.

Seat Height:
No don’t change the seat height. We just want the beginner(me) to experience the “seat in front” with the unicycle, as-is. The next “improvement” is find the best body position to work with the unicycle in SIF. Changing heights at this point may create some confusion or “crutches” that might handicap later. (unless the rider has an extreme up or down position that will be an obvious problem. )

Seat “grab” position
If anyone has ever tried SIF, the first thing you will feel is tremendous twisting torque on your hands. That’s because the unicycle is fighting you unless you have perfect foot pedal control. The first impulse is to grab the end of the saddle, which seems the most comfortable position(also, as seen watching other pro’s doing it). However, the beginner doesn’t know how the unicycle will behave with his “inexperienced” feet on the pedals.

The center of the saddle(directly over the seat post) has zero or least amount of twisting torque(depending on how skinny or fat the seat geometry). Now you just have to deal with the lateral forces of the saddle(or in SIF terms, the saddle = the whole unicycle in your hands). Yes, its a handful.

Note. My answer to your first two questions applies to when using “assisted” SIF practicing. Your final question(actually it’s your second question) I assume applies when I was actually SIF for real without any assistance. Where was my hands? feet? pedal clock position at the moment of “take off”

Launch position for SIF
right hand = holding the saddle with death grip on the center…maintaining “up pull tension”
left hand = on a stationary object…ready to let go…
left foot = frwd/infront at 3 o’clock…ready to press down
right foot = back/behind at 9 o’clock…adding resistance

So, in that position I begin the whole SIF launch by releasing my hands, and “dropping/leaning” forwards until my body is at about 2 o’clock position…then “slowly” drop my lead foot(left foot) into 6 o’clock and “pause/hold” for a microsecond. (more details on this technique/launch process will be continued in Phase 3…where it’s no assistance…just going for it…stand bye)